CouponChief.com: How to Make Taking Care of Your Pet Affordable

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Regina Wilson
Guest Contributor

Originally posted on CouponChief.com

What does it cost to get and take care of a pet?

According to the most recent study by the American Pet Products Association, total U.S. pet expenditures in 2015 were $60.28 billion.

That same report found that 65% of the 79.7 million households in the U.S. have at least one pet, meaning the average home spends $756.33 per year or $63.03 monthly on pet-related purchases.

Pet care expenses

Here’s a breakdown of how much money goes to the five top expense categories:

38%
FOOD

26%
VETERINARIAN CARE

24%
SUPPLIES

9%
SERVICES

3%
ACQUISITION

So while the typical family will budget for and focus on the cost of getting a pet, many don’t realize the cost of acquisition is the least expensive part of pet ownership.

Here are some ideas on how to make taking care of your pet affordable. Lower prices do not have to mean lower quality of care. Your pet can live like royalty on pauper’s wages, if you learn and apply these tips.

Dogs vs Cats vs Goldfish

For the 65% of American homes that do house a pet, here’s the data on pet popularity:
68% Dog: 68% of homes with pets have a dog
54% Cat: 54% of homes with pets have a cat

17% Fish: 17% of homes with pets keep a fishbowl or aquarium
16% Other Pet: 6% of homes with pets keep other types of pets
Why do those numbers total over 100%? That’s because many people enjoy the company of more than one pet!

Saving Money on Pet Care – The Master Guide

From the most expensive category to the least, here’s how you can cut down on the costs of pet care. When it comes to pets (and people) it’s more important to spend time with them than to spend money on them.

How to Save Money on Feeding Your Pet

Pet Food

According to the statistics above, food makes up 38% of the yearly spend ($22.26 billion) on pet care. Since 65% of the 79.7 million U.S. households include a pet, the average monthly spend on pet food is $23.95 per home.

If your pet is a goldfish, that number will be considerably less. If you own a Great Dane, it’s liable to be more… but that’s the average.

The good news is whether you own a dog, cat, or turtle, you can spend less money on pet food and still keep your pets well fed.

Here are the best tips we’ve found for saving money on pet food:

Save on Pet Food – Tip #1: Get your pet food at a big-box store.

Websites and specialty stores are typically more expensive. For example, a Consumer Reports study found consumers can pay up to twice as much for the same food, depending on whether it’s purchased online (most expensive) or at a big-box chain. Much of the difference can be attributed to shipping costs.

Make your own comparisons. Check Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target, and the others. Convert to price per pound to determine the difference between getting pet food at those outlets and your other options. Normally, the big-box store will save money – although special offers and coupons can be an equalizer.

Save on Pet Food – Tip #2: Buy the generic brand.

Branding and advertising can sucker you into paying considerably more for the same – sometimes even less nutritious – pet food. How do you know which is best? Do the same thing for pet food you do for your own food: read the label and compare the ingredients. You could be in for a big surprise!

Save on Pet Food – Tip #3: Always check for coupons!

Get in the habit of searching for coupons before you go shopping. Sign up for deal alerts on Coupon Chief to make sure you don’t miss current coupon discounts at your favorite stores, online or off. You don’t have to go overboard on coupon clipping to save substantial money on expenses. Digital coupons make it easy to stay up on cost savings.

Save on Pet Food – Tip #4: Buy pet food in bulk sizes.

You’ll want to pay attention to freshness, of course, and you’ll definitely want to make sure your pet will eat the food you buy, but getting a 40-lb bag versus a 10-lb bag can save considerable money. That assumes dry food (75% of pet food purchase is), and it assumes the food will be used within 4-6 weeks of opening the bag.

Depending on the type of food you get (ingredients determine length of freshness) and the usage rate, you might consider repackaging or freezing food to capture the savings on bulk without risking that it might become stale.

Save on Pet Food – Tip #5: Join the club!

Many retailers offer rewards programs or have special days when certain items will be discounted. Remember, too, some stores offer regular discounts to veterans, teachers, or other groups. You may be able to save 10% or more on every purchase just by claiming your special status!

Save on Pet Food – Tip #6: Do your research when it comes to supplements.

Depending on diet and physical condition, it may be a good idea to give your pet nutritional supplements – or it may be an unnecessary expense. Don’t base your decision on advertising. Talk to your veterinarian, do your research, and use common sense. You may want to upgrade your food supply rather than pay for supplementation.

Save on Pet Food – Tip #7: Feed your pet less!

Obesity isn’t just rampant in humans, our pets are also feeling the strain of too much food. Don’t allow your pet to become obese. Obesity can lead to chronic issues like arthritis and diabetes.

Save on Pet Food – Tip #8: Make your own pet food.

You may not want to prepare every meal your pet eats, and every question about diet should be discussed with the veterinarian, but supplementing your pet’s diet with acceptable, healthy food can cut down on the budget.

Don’t waste money on expensive treats. Use fresh fruits and vegetables like blueberries, melon pieces, carrots, and broccoli instead. You can dry small slices of chicken or beef in the oven to make dehydrated treats your pet will love.

Both you and your dog, for instance, would do well to have a bowl of oatmeal now and then. Do your research, and you’re sure to discover a few things easy and inexpensive to prepare.

NOTE: Many pet owners and veterinarians have strong feelings about feeding table scraps to animals. Some say it all depends on the food, others think giving Fido a piece of meat from your plate is sentencing him to heart disease. Others point out that feeding from the table encourages begging.

Determining the best food for your pet is much like deciding the best kind of diet for your family. You may believe organic and no preservatives is the only way to go, while your neighbor says you’re wasting your money on “health food.” This is entirely a decision you must make for yourself. We can report our findings, but we can’t advise you.

Veterinarian Michael W. Fox says,
“I advocate giving suitable table scraps as treats (no cooked bones or high-fat scraps) to dogs after they have had their regular food, or mixing no more than 10 percent with their regular food.”

Dr. Char Wilson. DVM. agrees, saying,
“I think it’s Okay to give table scraps, if it’s kind Of like what the family ate, and they have a good diet. so if you had some chicken and some broccoli and some mashed potatoes, that would be great.”

Some veterinarians say table scraps are okay, and some say not okay. The clip above is from an article on Petful

How to Save Money on Veterinary Care

Veterinary Care
The second highest pet expenditure is one many people grossly underestimate when they get that cute little kitten or puppy for a child. It averages about $200 per year.

Not only do those little critters grow and need an increasing amount of food, but they require shots and regular checkups in order to stay healthy. Spaying or neutering is also often a good idea.

Here are our top tips on cutting back on veterinary expenses without cutting back on proper attention to healthcare.

Save on Veterinary Care – Tip #1: Preventative medicine is the best medicine.

Keeping up with vaccinations, making sure your pet gets the right food and plenty of exercise – the more attention you pay to keeping your pet well, the less you’ll pay in visits to the veterinarian. Most ailments are a whole lot easier and less costly to prevent than to treat. If you overfeed your dog, for instance, you’re not only spending too much on food, you’re setting Fido up for obesity and the troubles that can cause.

SPECIAL RESOURCE: Preventative Pet Healthcare

Save on Veterinary Care – Tip #2: Price shop for a veterinary practice.

You may have to drive a little further to find a practice where the fees are within your budget. Paying premium prices for location may be fine for real estate, but not for pet care. Before you decide who to entrust your pet’s care to, ask friends for recommendations and go visit the offices you think may be best. Have a frank discussion with the billing clerk about your budget and your needs. You may find the practice is willing to extend a special discount for your patronage. When you adopt from a shelter, they often give you a certificate that makes your pet’s first veterinary wellness check free. This is a good opportunity to assess your veterinary choice. Make sure the provider has a good pet-side manner and reasonable fees.

Save on Veterinary Care – Tip #3: Price shop for prescriptions.

Here again, prices can vary considerably. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions, ask your friends, and go talk to the outlets that could work for you. Don’t forget to ask about special discounts for organizations you belong to. Your AAA or AARP membership, for instance, could save you money on healthcare expenditures, but you won’t know unless you ask. Don’t count on the merchant to display a sign or otherwise alert you to the possibilities. Reputable online pharmacies can also save you a chunk of cash on prescriptions. And always remember to check for coupons.

Online pet prescriptions

Save on Veterinary Care – Tip #4: Do your research on vaccinations.

You’ll want to heed the advice of your veterinarian, of course, but some vaccines come in extended formulations that don’t need to be administered every year. Distemper and Parvo vaccinations now last three to five years. The AVMA and AAHA actually recommend vaccinations no more often than every 3 years. Do not allow the veterinarian to convince you otherwise. You might also get a discounted price by taking your pet to one of the frequent clinics held at pet specialty stores and pet advocacy organizations. Just be sure to get documentation and give a copy to your veterinarian to update the records they keep for you.

SPECIAL RESOURCE: Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines
Save on Veterinary Care – Tip #5: Consider getting health insurance for your pet.

Depending on how many first aid and healthcare needs you can handle by yourself, you may be way ahead with an insurance policy. Look for one that rewards preventative care and will cover you well if something requiring intensive treatments happens. Chronic diseases and ailments common to the breed, for instance, should be part of the plan you choose. Options to insurance include setting up a savings fund for pet care or taking advantage of special financing like CareCredit, an interest-free credit card with up to 24 months to pay, depending on total. Your insurance plan can make the difference between getting the proper care for you pet, or having to make a very tough decision if you can’t afford the treatment.

SPECIAL RESOURCE: Questions to Consider When Purchasing Health Insurance (California Department of Insurance)

Save on Veterinary Care – Tip #6: Veterinary schools can provide significant savings.

Check to see how far you live from a clinic operated by a veterinary college. The students need the experience, and you can get quality care at discounted prices.

We’ve already mentioned checking with organizations that advocate for pets, but it’s important enough to repeat. Your local humane society or pet rescue group can advise you on special clinics and services available in your area.

SPECIAL RESOURCE: Accredited Veterinarian Schools

How to Save Money on Pet Supplies

Pet supplies

The number one concern here is safety. That chew toy may be inexpensive, but if it’s made of materials that will cause health problems or an emergency visit to the vet, it cost a whole lot more than it saved.

The average pet owner spends $182 per year on supplies and non-prescription medicines. Many spend much more, but you don’t have to be a big spender on pet supplies. Your pet doesn’t need fancy toys to be happy.

Here are our top tips on cutting back on veterinary expenses without cutting back on proper attention to healthcare.
Save on Pet Supplies – Tip #1: You may be able to save considerably by shopping online.

This is especially true of over-the-counter medicines and other health-related products. We don’t recommend ordering pet food online because it’s usually not the cost cost-effective option – especially when shipping charges are factored in.

Pet supplies, though, are an entirely different story. Normally, the weight isn’t exorbitant and the options are many. Always check for digital coupons when shopping for pet supplies, online or off.

High quality products will save you money in the long run. Don’t believe all the hype on supplements. Read ingredients and make sure you aren’t paying for a lot of fillers like water, alcohol, glycerin, flax seed, or cellulose. Quality can vary widely.

Always be careful about country of origin and seller. Manufacturers sometimes illegally duplicate brand-name items and claim approval seals they don’t really possess. Buying local does not guarantee you’ll get superior quality. Quality and safety depend on where the item is sourced.

Digital pet coupons

Save on Pet Supplies – Tip #2: Be creative with pet supplies.

Let’s see, that super-cool soft and chewy toy ball for dogs and cats costs $8.97, but tennis balls are three for a dollar. Which should you choose? Always err on the side of safety, but smart shoppers know anything earmarked for pets is going to be more expensive than the generic item. We’ve seen dogs who love playing with a knotted up old tee shirt, but scorn the seven-dollar tug toy. Go figure. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on toys. Most pets are much happier getting attention from their owners or going for a walk.

SPECIAL RESOURCE: Make Your Own Natural Cat Litter

DIY rope projects

How to turn a handsome profit on a short piece of rope.

Save on Pet Supplies – Tip #3: Used pet supplies are often available at bargain prices.

Safety first, but don’t let the used status keep you from saving money. Check yard sales and thrift stores for items you can clean and reuse. You may find that $25 stainless steel food bowl for $2 elsewhere. The potential savings here can definitely justify the time it takes to stop and look. You can search online for used items as well. From freecycle.org to Facebook pages specific to your locality, people often have quality items they are willing to sell for a pittance of the original price. Make sure your supplies are age and size appropriate. A small dog doesn’t need a big bone, and an adult cat doesn’t need the extra calories in kitten treats.

Freecycle.org

Freecycle.org allows users to post ad for supplies they want as well as for supplies they have to give away.

How to Save Money on Pet Services and Acquisition.

Cat and Dog
The statistics say 12% of the national expenditure for pet care goes to pet services and acquisition – 9% for services and 3% for acquisition. The big take-away here is the overwhelming temptation for the initial cost of ownership (acquisition) to take center stage in the buying decision… yet it’s the least of all pet expense factors.

No matter where you decide to get your new friend – even if you’re getting it free from a relative or friend — do your homework to be sure you are adopting or purchasing a pet that fits your lifestyle.

Puppies are not for everyone; they can be destructive and will need training, medical care, puppy vaccinations, and spay or neuter. Large dogs could push or pull their elderly owners down, potentially causing a broken bone or bad bruise.

Check these tips for saving money when you get and take care of your pet:

Save on Pet Services and Acquisition – Tip #1: Pet adoption saves you money and could save an animal’s life.

Your cost to acquire a pet from a breeder will likely be several times higher than the cost to adopt. Not only that, but many adoptable animals are already trained and ready to assume a role in the family. You say you’ll only settle for a purebred animal? No worries, many of the pets you’ll find at the local shelter are purebred. Here are some stats from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Of the 7.6 million animals arriving at animal shelters each year, about 2.7 million are adopted and 2.7 million are euthanized. About 26% of the dogs received at shelters are reunited with their owners.

41% of cats that enter shelters are euthanized. Only 5% are returned to owners.
Most pets are acquired from family members.

Just 10% of animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered.

Of pets relinquished by owners, the most frequent reason given is that a new home or apartment doesn’t allow pets.

If adopting from a rescue, make sure the rescue is reputable. Some agencies call themselves a “rescue” when they really aren’t. A good rescue organization will know the temperament of the pet, will have it vetted and up to date on vaccinations, will have it spayed or neutered, and will be able to tell you if the pet has any chronic medical issues that will need treatment. The good rescue groups might charge a little more for the adoption fee, but you’ll save money in the long run by avoiding unforeseen medical bills.

Don’t overlook the adoption of older pets. They can be calmer and well-trained. Many senior pets need a home after their senior humans are no longer able to care for them.

Monkey’s House
Monkey’s House (see above) is one of Dr. Judy Morgan’s favorite charities.
Save on Pet Services and Acquisition – Tip #2: Learn to groom and take care of nail needs for your pet.

Bathing and caring for your pet’s hygienic needs not only saves considerable cash, but can be a special time of companionship. There are plenty of educational materials available to help you get started. Even if you take your pet to a groomer, you can stretch out the time between visits by regularly bathing and brushing your pet’s coat in-between.

Save on Pet Services and Acquisition – Tip #3: Pet-proof your home to cut down on damage to both the home and the pet.

The techniques here are similar to those enacted when toddlers live in the home: use childproof latches, keep trash cans covered, keep the toilet lid closed, beware of choking hazards, secure all poisons, and such. Decide whether your pet will be allowed free access in the home or will be confined to a certain area when no one is home. Put breakables out of reach, along will pillows, toys, and shoes that might be chewed. You’ll not only gain peace of mind, but could save the stress and financial impact of a medical emergency or

home repair.

SPECIAL RESOURCE: Pet-Proofing Your Home

Save on Pet Services and Acquisition – Tip #4: Do Your Own Training.

Pet stores and local organizations will train your pet for you, but they’ll also charge a hefty fee. By training your own, you’ll strengthen your relationship with the pet and save money to boot. It’s easy to find books and videos to lead you through the training sequences. An in-between option is for you and your pet to attend training classes together.

SPECIAL RESOURCE: Homecoming Care Tips for Your New Puppy

Saving Money on Pet Care – You Can Do It

The joys of sharing your home with a pet are many. Pets provide smiles, love, and companionship. They can help protect your home and family, keep your property free of rodents and snakes, they can even help improve your health.

Pets are well worth the money it takes to acquire and care for them, but you don’t have to break the bank to be able to afford a pet. The tips we’ve provided here can help you save money on pet food, veterinary care, pet supplies and more.

For more information, contact Coupon Chief. We are pet advocates, and we love helping you keep your pet budget within reason.

For more information visit: www.couponchief.com/guides/ultimate_guide_to_saving_money_on_pets

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